Going solar with the COVID-19 vaccine in Peru

UNICEF is supporting the country’s efforts to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to more communities – wherever they are.

Peru. A woman receives a COVID-19 vaccine.
09 November 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on young people in Latin America. By the middle of September 2021, almost 90 million children in the region were estimated to be out of the classroom. As a result, tens of millions of children have been missing out not only on a formal education, but the safe spaces they need to interact, play and grow together. 

Peru has been one of the hardest hit nations in the region. By June 2021, the country had the highest COVID-19 mortality rate in the world and the second highest number of COVID-19 deaths in the region. The COVID-19 vaccine will play a vital part in bringing this pandemic to an end, but securing vaccine doses is only part of the challenge. The vaccines also need to be safely stored, distributed and administered to people across the country, sometimes in areas that are difficult to access.

That’s where the cold chain comes in – a series of temperature-controlled environments used to store, manage and transport these life-saving vaccines. UNICEF is working with partners to bolster Peru’s cold chain capacity to ensure COVID-19 vaccines can be safely distributed across the country. UNICEF has facilitated the acquisition of more than 11,000 pieces of cold chain equipment to help with distribution of the vaccine, including solar freezers and refrigerators, and has also provided training in the use of the equipment.


Visit the COVID-19 information centre for more on UNICEF’s global response to the pandemic:

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Peru. A health care worker holds up her fingers in the vaccinated sign.
Olinda, head of the Masisea Health Centre, in Ucayali region, Peru, holds up her fingers in the vaccinated gesture.

“When this pandemic arrived, we were all really bewildered,” says Olinda, head of the Masisea Health Centre, in Ucayali region. “We have lost many people, people very close to us. We lost part of the health team as well.”

Peru. Freezers for storing vaccines are checked at a warehouse.
Freezers for storing vaccines are checked at a warehouse.

UNICEF has assisted with the procurement of 1,100 solar-powered freezers to help ensure that doses of the COVID-19 vaccine can be safely stored and distributed at the correct temperature. 

Peru. A cart bearing a freezer is pictured.
A cart built to transport a freezer for storing vaccines sits on a path.

UNICEF and partners have also transported and installed dozens of freezers in Huancavelica, in the Andean region, and Loreto and Ucayali in the Amazon regions – three areas containing rural indigenous communities that can be geographically challenging to reach with supplies, including vaccines.

Peru. Freezers for storing vaccines are carried off boats.
A freezer for storing vaccines is carried onto land.

“The vaccines need to travel along our rivers. The distances are long, and the cold chain cannot be broken,” says Dr. Carlos Calampa, Director of Health for the Loreto region. “These freezers will allow us to have a stable supply of ice to be able to continue vaccinating people along the different river basins.”

Peru. People wait outside a clinic to receive their COVID-19 vaccination.

Health workers and older residents like Marcial, right, have been among the first in Peru to receive the vaccination.

Peru. Two people walk along a road.

But ensuring rural communities aren’t left behind as the vaccines are rolled out is an ongoing challenge, Olinda says, explaining that it can take days to reach some communities. “We have people living as long as seven days up the river,” she says. “I long for my son to get a vaccine, too, because he is at home waiting for me.”

Vaccines allow us to come together, shoulder to shoulder – in schools, communities and places of worship. They are the best hope we have of ending the COVID-19 pandemic and getting back to doing the things we enjoy, with the people we love.

Read more about UNICEF’s Dose Donation campaign and show your support for fair and equal access to vaccines by calling on the world’s richest nations to #DonateDosesNow.